Job Posting: Safety and Occupational Health Manager – National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC)

Occupational Safety & Health Job Posting National Gallery of Art!

Application Deadline: February 6, 2015


The position is located in the Risk Management department of the Office of Protection Services at the National Gallery of Art. The incumbent plans, organizes and implements the Gallery’s safety, health and environmental programs to protect the Gallery’s employees, visitors, collections, and facilities. Develops goals for these programs and researches and develops Gallery policies and procedures. Manages, administers and monitors inspection and monitoring programs to reduce actual and potential hazards. Administers the Gallery’s hazardous materials management program, and manages the MSDS database and monitors the work performed by Gallery contractors in the abatement of hazardous materials. Provides technical guidance and interpretation of standards to Gallery management and staff. Identifies employee and supervisory training needs, formulates training strategies and methodologies. Reviews and evaluates complex construction/renovation plans to identify potential hazards. Surveys these operations, documents issues and recommends corrective action. Administers the Gallery’s hazardous waste management program. Coordinates the management of workers’ compensation claims through the Gallery’s case management contractor

Required Qualifications:

Candidates must meet the Qualification Standards Handbook requirements for GS-018-13. Specialized experience is professional work experience involving the development and enforcement of policies and procedures regarding safety, occupational health and environmental protection. Candidates must reflect in their submitted USAJOBS résumés the possession of this specialized experience. If their résumé does not include such specialized experience, they will be ineligible for this position.

Federal status candidates must also meet the time-in-grade requirements of having been at the GS-12 level for at least 1 year.
Those applicants who meet the minimum qualification requirements will be evaluated against these factors to determine the best-qualified candidates.

  1. Technical knowledge of safety, health and environmental concepts, principles, regulations and exposures and the ability to apply the knowledge to implement risk control techniques as they apply to museum operations including security, maintenance, conservation, construction and other unique high risk exposures.
  2. Program management skills to develop program goals, objectives, and budgets to plan, direct and evaluate safety, health and environmental operations including the ability to formulate policy for a large, complex organization. Skill in inspection techniques, hazard assessment and prioritizing alternate control methods.
  3. Technical knowledge of industrial hygiene techniques to manage exposures to employees, assets and facilities from chemical use and other operations (noise, dust, etc.). Ability to administer technical aspects of contracts with consultants and/or contractors providing complex safety, health and environmental services.
  4. Skill in professional writing and oral communication, including the preparation of operating procedures and the development and presentation of management briefings and employee training programs.
  5. Skill in interpreting complex construction and renovation plans and specifications to identify potentially hazardous conditions and determine sufficiency of occupational health and environmental provisions, as well as the impact on high valued assets (such as art collections)and facilities.
  6. Knowledge of the requirements of EPA and DC regarding storage and disposal of hazardous waste at the Small Quantity Generator level.
  7. Working Knowledge of the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act and the operation of Federal Workers’ Compensation programs.

Physical requirements: Incumbent must be able to climb ladders. Must be able to walk several miles over the course of each work day.

The National Gallery of Art provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities. If you need reasonable accommodation for any part of the application and hiring process, please notify us. The decision on granting reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis.

General Public Applicants:
Federal Competitive Status Applicants:

Health & Safety and CIPP Call for Studio Design Submissions


Have a question about selecting a fume extractor for your studio? Or how you can safely solder or spray paint indoors? Or what studio work is never smart to do inside an apartment or condo? Have a basement or garage home studio renovation or DIY example you’d like to share?
This year in Miami, CIPP and the Health & Safety Committee will be hosting the Lunchtime Lecture, Studio Design Challenges–Creating a Safe and Practical Space (Wednesday, 12-2pm), which will be led by architects and engineers from EwingCole.  Organizers are requesting questions and real-world examples from individuals operating private studios to be included in an extensive Q&A period following the formal presentation.
AIC members are invited to submit your studio design questions as well as examples of creative ways for overcoming challenges that you may have already implemented in your own space; examples from both home and commercial spaces are welcome.  Submissions should be related to health and safety issues and can include, but are not limited to: fume extraction, chemical storage, fire/electrical safety, and ergonomic workspaces. For example, you may have created or seen a DIY exhaust system and would like to know if it is actually effective or potentially hazardous!
Please indicate whether you would like your name included for credit, or whether you want to remain anonymous.  For photos, also include a brief description and applicable photo credits.    By providing your questions and/or examples, even if you request your name not be used, you are agreeing to include them in the lecture as well as any published materials.  Submissions are welcome from all AIC members, but priority during the presentation will be given to individuals registered for the lecture; those not included at the meeting may be addressed in post-conference materials.
Please send submissions as soon as possible, but no later than March 1, 2015, to Health & Safety Chair, Kathy Makos,
You don’t have to wait until May to get answers!  Members of the EwingCole design team will try respond to questions posted in the comments below or may contact you to discuss your submission if you provide your contact information.

Health & Safety Committee Call for Members

Are you concerned about the health and safety of yourself and others? Do you want to get more involved in AIC and be part of a great team? The AIC’s Health & Safety Committee is seeking three new members to serve 4-year terms beginning in May 2015.
Health and Safety is a very active committee, with members contributing articles and safety guides to the AIC News and Wiki; presenting lectures and posters at national and international conferences; hosting an informational booth, sessions and respiratory protection workshops at the Annual Meeting; and regularly interacting with other Specialty Groups, Committees, Networks and AIC blogs to address questions related to health and safety in our field.
The Health and Safety Committee enjoys strong support from its AIC Board liaison (Sarah Stauderman) and its AIC Staff liaison (Ruth Seyler, Director of Membership and Meetings).
Our Belief
Individuals must consider their own health and safety to be equally as important as the health and safety of the collections in their care. The AIC Health & Safety Committee firmly believes that safety risk controls and work resources can be managed together without compromising resources.
How do we accomplish this?
To increase the knowledge of safety hazards, control measures and general health issues related to the conservation profession, the Committee is charged with providing educational and technical information to the AIC membership. The Committee maintains strong working relationships with public health and safety, occupational medicine, and fire protection professionals and their organizations, who donate their time and knowledge to the benefit of AIC membership.
For more information on the H&S Committee, please visit the Health & Safety Committee website.
Who are we?
You will be joining a diverse group of conservators from various specialties, and allied safety professionals, who enjoy working together, “meeting” regularly via conference calls and Basecamp discussions, and completing projects on-time. We operate democratically (and with a great deal of fun!) by setting priority projects together and agreeing that every member will volunteer to manage or work on at least one project every year.
There are 10 positions (AIC membership is required), each serving one 4-year term with a possible renewal for a second term. By charge, at least one member must be an Occupational Health and Safety Professional (currently we have 2!). The chair usually serves for 2 years, and is elected from the committee members. The conservation student member serves for a single 2-year term, and is the H&S Committee liaison with the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network.
Applications Welcomed
The ideal candidate possesses a strong interest in health and safety issues and a desire to participate. We strongly encourage AIC Fellows to join us, as the Committee will greatly benefit from your career experiences in balancing safety and conservation work. Interested candidates should submit a resume or CV, and a statement of interest, to Chair Kathy Makos, at, by February 1, 2015.

42nd Annual Meeting – Health and Safety Session, May 31st, "Sustainability for the Conservator: Mold Remediation"

This short session was presented by Chris Stavroudis (Conservator in Private Practice) and Steven Pine (Senior Conservator for Decorative Arts, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and AIC-CERT member), and was sub-titled “Lessons from Super Storm Sandy.”
Chris began the session by acknowledging that he is not a mold expert, though he has had plenty of experience dealing with mold and art/artifacts, and highlighted Elise Rousseau in the audience as a fellow AIC member with significant mold remediation experience (Elise also presented an excellently detailed and informative poster at the meeting, which can be found here). The activities of the Cultural Recovery Center in Brooklyn immediately following Super Storm Sandy dealt with a lot of mold. The CRC opened to provide expertise to assist artists and owners in salvaging their works. Chris referenced the Mold Remediation workshop, and summarized mold as a form of biodeterioration that also acts as an allergen, and that mold by-products can stain art or be toxic to people. He mentioned that most people have some sensitivity to mold, and some people develop a hypersensitivity either through multiple exposures or even single instances of massive overexposure.
As this was a Health & Safety Session, the emphasis was on Personal Protective Equipment – gloves, suits, respirators or full masks with cartridges for toxic mold by-products. The PPE needs to be appropriate for what you’re working on/the environment you are working in. In instances with large amounts of mold,  eye protection can be important. You particularly do not want to track mold everywhere or bring it home.
Some tips on PPE:
When working with a large amount of moldy objects, it can be a good idea to have multiple rooms to separate the bulk of mold activity – hot/warm/cold sections, where hot  = the highest mold activity.
It is ideal to use a Tyvek coveralls/body suit – while they are meant to be disposable (and personally I feel you should discard the suit after exposure, though at ~$12 each this may become cost prohibitive), you can also wipe down suits with sanitizing wipes or an alcohol/water solution.
You also want to bring separate clothes to go home in – you can bring kitchen bags to segragate your clothing when changing into PPE. There will be less cleaning of associated bags and clothes when leaving a “hot” area.
Steven Pine volunteered to demonstrate the right way to put on your PPE – the demonstration was somewhat hilarious, with a couple false starts and emphasized the need for a buddy-system to help.

AIC2014 Health & Safety - Mold remediation
Steve Pine demonstares how to put on your PPE.

You should put on your Tyvek suit in a clean/cold zone. They recommend having a roll of green Frog Tape, in case the suit tears or as a way to make the suit fit a little better – tyvek suits are one-size-fits-all, and using the tape to tighten waistlines or shorten arm/leg lengths makes it a little less cumbersome to wear. Painters tape/blue tape does not work as well, as removing it can cause the suit to tear, it may not stick to the tyvek, and will peel in a damp environment. Steve also recommended using the Frog Tape to label yourself on the front and back, as once suited up all people tend to look the same.
Elise advised using cotton face masks (also known as a “spray sock”) when wearing a respirator, as it makes them more comfortable to wear – I would suggest making sure you are still able to get a tight fit while wearing both (doing the breathe in/out test in your respirator). You should arrive with your face mask/respirator bagged, and bag it again after use. It can be very difficult to communicate with a mask on – it may be useful to have a notepad or similar to write things down.
Tyvek shoe covers/booties are also advised as another barrier over shoes – the gap between the booties and the coverall legs can be taped closed. Using the booties with the coveralls makes everything disposable.
When getting dressed, you should put your gloves on first. Wearing cotton gloves under nitrile gloves can make long term wear less irritating. Once gloves are on, it can be difficult to tear tap, so you need a buddy or prepare torn tape strips accessible beforehand. Wearing multiple nitrile gloves or thicker work gloves can be useful, in case the outer layer is torn or stained, that way you can peel off the soiled layers.
A trick from Steve is to make a tape loops attached to arms for pens, etc – acts as a utility belt to hang things on. Also, a tip to tape down the upper part of the zipper to prevent it from traveling down while you’re working.
Overall, you are going to be very uncomfortable – it is advised to bring whatever is necessary to make yourself comfortable afterward, such as a change of clean clothing, as well as wet wipes for refreshing yourself afterward.
When removing your PPE, be strategic so that everything peels inside out – hook underneath the gloves to pull them off inside out. Encompass gloves with each other so that the interior sides are on the outside. The respirator is put on UNDERNEATH the tyvek hood, so it is removed last.
Steve Pine illustrates proper glove removal (inside out)
Steve Pine illustrates proper glove removal (inside out)

Elise cautioned that all items in contact with mold (including PPE) may need to be disposed of as hazardous waste – clear trash bags are good for hazmat disposal, as it allows waste management to assess the contents.
There are occasionally problems when working in a disaster environment, such as how much PPE you where when your host doesn’t or can’t wear any? It is a judgement call on the part of the conservator, and based on how bad the situation is.
After the PPE demonstration, the talk went to mold treatments, and some new recipes that are being used (namely Elise Rousseau’s research and application – see poster). The speakers mentioned the recognition that fungi have a growing resistance to fungicides and bleaches, and warn against using thymol. As there was a lot of information being passed very quickly, I managed to snap some pics of slides with recipes and treatment protocols – be advised that all materials should be tested to determine the effects of remediation treatments! You have to weigh the effects of the treatment against the possible effects of mold growth on the art/artifacts.
Slide from AIC2014 Health & Safety - Mold remediation
Slide from AIC2014 Health & Safety – Mold remediation

Slide from AIC2014 Health & Safety - Mold remediation
Slide from AIC2014 Health & Safety – Mold remediation

AIC2014 Health & Safety - Mold remediation
AIC2014 Health & Safety – Mold remediation

Slide from AIC2014 Health & Safety - Mold remediation
Slide from AIC2014 Health & Safety – Mold remediation

AIC2014 Health & Safety - Mold remediation
AIC2014 Health & Safety – Mold remediation

AIC2014 Health & Safety - Mold remediation
AIC2014 Health & Safety – Mold remediation

There was also some discussion on how to build containment units, something that Elise is also very well versed in. A double walled containmnet unit with doors and air extractors/scrubbers with HEPA filters or venting to the exterior is recommended – I managed to snap a pic of an illustrative slide, but I would recommend working with an engineer or someone well versed in creating such a unit before building one yourself.
AIC2014 Health & Safety - Mold remediation
AIC2014 Health & Safety – Mold remediation

All in all it was a very informative session with great tips and advice from people who have a lot of experience working in mold remediation – there is definitely room for more research on the effectiveness of traditional and emerging remediation treatments, as well as getting a better understanding of how mold and mold remediation treatments could affect various types of substrates. Also, it would be useful to have a clear step-by-step guide for putting on and removing PPE in the appropriate order for mold treatments – perhaps the presenters could work on publishing a short chart in the AIC Newsletter?

42nd Annual Meeting – Workshop, May 28, "Responding to Mold Outbreaks after a Disaster"

This full-day workshop comprised 4 talks by 3 conservators, all experienced with treating mold affected artworks or library/archive materials. The morning session was presented by Olivia Primanis, Senior Conservator at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas Austin. Primanis gave a large amount of introductory material focusing on aspects of mold that are of interest to Heritage Conservators and Caretakers. An introduction to mycology provided a basic understanding of fungal characteristics and the life cycle of aspergillus, one of the mold genera most commonly found after flood events. Details of fungal anatomy such as conidia/spore sizes were also discussed, as were activators of conidia – the conditions that encourage rapid growth. Fungal genera found on artifacts, as illustrated in Mary Lou Florian’s book Fungal Facts, was also briefly discussed. Primanis also discussed whether it was necessary to consult with fungal experts, such as industrial hygenists, who can take samples and identify the mold species. While species identification may inform mitigation treatments, it appeared that the presenter did not do any species identification during any of the case studies presented, and all mold outbreaks were treated using the same method of HEPA vacuuming to remove the visible mold, in some cases followed by attempts to neutralize the remaining microscopic elements using a 70% ethanol solution. Rather than attempt to “kill” the mold, Primanis vacuums and then works to optimize the environment to stop or slow mold growth, as historic mold killing treatments have been found to either stay in the affected material and affect users, or could potentially adversely affect the object itself.
In addition to a lengthy bibliography and access to additional downloads via a shared Dropbox folder, Primanis also provided a useful list of options to consider when responding to a mold infestation:
• What is the cause of mold growth and how can the growth be stopped?
• Should an expert, such as an industrial hygienist, be consulted?
• Should the type of mold and bacteria be identified?
• Should the mold be killed?
• What are the health and safety issues for staff and patron?
• Should the mold, and can the mold, be removed from affected building materials and artifacts?
o What methods can be used to remove the mold contamination?
o What methods can be used to assure the cleaning process has been effective?
o What will access to building and collection materials be?
The second presentation was by Ann Frellsen, Book and Paper Collections Conservator for the Emory University Libraries, a member of AIC-CERT as well as organizer of HERA (Heritage Emergency Response Alliance) in Atlanta, GA. Frellson discussed AIC-CERT response after Hurricane Katrina as well as HERA regional response activities, presenting a variety of challenges through a series of case studies. Response activities after tornado destruction in Atlanta highlighted challenges in establishing salvage priorities, as the emotionally affected owners of the collection were incapable of making those decisions, as well as communication issues. Post-Katrina AIC-CERT response inside a historic house on the Gulf coast illustrated the essential need for proper PPE, in this case including full HAZMAT suits equipped with a forced-air system. Another case study discussed how affected town record ledgers containing property data needed to remain accessible, as people were required to consult them in order to obtain proof of ownership as required by their insurance companies. A mold event at Emory University discussed the need for managing contracts with salvage companies, emphasizing that their activities may need to be closely monitored, and you need to know exactly what you want from them.
Ann Frellsen and Vicki Lee (Director of Preservation and Conservation at the Maryland State Archives and AIC-CERT member) teamed up to give a short case-study presentation cleverly titled: “Where We Did Not Find Mold, or, I Suited Up for This?” This presentation consisted of a series of images from flood/water response activities that provided the ideal circumstances for rampant mold growth (such as wet photos in plastic sleeves, wet salvage items left covered in plastic, and wet basement library items relocated to a non-climate controlled backyard shed), but exhibited no visible mold growth.
Another short presentation, titled “Creative Solutions: Thinking Outside the Box (the boxes have not shipped yet)”, presented examples of stabilization treatment ideas that developed from specific needs, such as the creation of a quick-fix solvent chamber at the Cultural Recovery Center in Brooklyn (post Hurricane Sandy) in which solvent sensitive moldy artifacts were treated by placing them in a Ziploc bag with solvent soaked cotton balls overnight. The efficacy of the treatment was not determined. Another attempt to wash and deacidify a paper item tried using crushed and strained calcium vitamins in an attempt to develop a buffering solution bath – the pH was tested at ~pH 7.5. This may be because calcium vitamins comprise calcium carbonate, not calcium hydroxide, but perhaps there were some other steps involved in the experiment that were not mentioned.
Questions from the audience:
Q. How effective is spraying an alcohol solution, when papers are general soaked in baths for 30 min?
Answer from Presenter: No testing was done to determine effectiveness, but it visually appeared to work.
Answer from Audience member: Alcohol treatment only kills surface mold via dehydration. To kill the fungal organism inside of the object or paper fibers, it needs to be put in an anoxic environment for at least 5 weeks using CO2 or Argon gas, which ruptures the cells. If you don’t kill all of the mold (not just the surface mold), then you will have dormant mold under the upper structure.
Q. Was it worth spraying then?
A. Yes, because it minimizes the spread of the spores. You can potentially maintain dormancy by controlling the environment (if possible).
Q. Should you spray, vacuum, and spray again? Vacuum, spray, vacuum?
A. Generally, spray, vac, spray, unless obviously very dirty, then vacuum first so that you can access more of the surface mold.

42nd Annual Meeting – Paintings (Joint with Wooden Artifacts), May 31, “Painted Totem Poles at the American Museum of Natural History: Treatment Challenges and Solutions” by Samantha Alderson, Judith Levinson, Gabrielle Tieu, and Karl Knauer

Those who have beheld the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians at the American Museum of Natural History and its extraordinary “totem poles” will instantly recognize the potential scope of any study or treatment of such massive artifacts.

The Hall of Northwest Coast Indians, which opened in 1900, highlights the traditional cultures of the native peoples of North America’s northwest shores from Washington State to southern Alaska, including the  Kwakwaka’wakw, Haida, Tlingit, and others. (Source:
The Hall of Northwest Coast Indians, which opened in 1900, highlights the traditional cultures of the native peoples of North America’s northwest shores from Washington State to southern Alaska, including the Kwakwaka’wakw, Haida, Tlingit, and others. (Source:

These objects are housed in the earliest wing of the museum, curated at its inception by Franz Boas, “the father of American Anthropology”, who organized the early acquisitions of the museum according to a revolutionary argument: that of “cultural relativism” in opposition to a chauvinistic, social-Darwinist organization that put “primitive” peoples at the bottom of an evolutionary tree, the pinnacle of which was white America. Today, this hall holds a landmarked status and remains relatively unchanged, as the poles are very hard to move.

Ten years ago, a renovation of the hall was proposed. Although the recession thwarted plans, the objects were still in need of stabilization and aesthetic improvements. Because this project—from its inception, through the research, testing, and execution stage, was so expansive—Samantha Alderson reminded her audience that her talk could only represent an overview of a four-year process. Those interested in a specific aspect of the project can look forward to in-depth, forthcoming publications.
One of the more important aspects of the research phase, and a professional obligation that is indispensable to the curation and conservation of native materials, was the consideration of ethical issues and provenance information. Most of these pieces entered the collection between the 1880s and the 1920s, and the majority has been on continual, open display since their arrival. Their presence in AMNH’s collection is widely acknowledged to be ethically complicated in itself, representing an era of unscrupulous dealing in Northwest Coast artifacts. (To read more about “Indians and about their procurable culture,” consult Douglas Cole’s, “Captured Heritage: The Scramble for Northwest Coast Artifacts,” about the coincidence of a taste for these native artifacts and the establishment of many of the country’s foremost natural history collections. (p.xi)]
The carvings, including the carved columns most commonly described as ”totem poles,” would have had numerous functions within their originating cultures: house frontal poles holding entry portals to buildings, interior house posts, welcome figures, memorial poles, and mortuary posts [For a technical study on these types of carvings, please consult “Melissa H. Carr. “A Conservation Perspective on Wooden Carvings of the Pacific Northwest Coast.” Wooden Artifacts Group Postprints. 1993.].
To further hone their understanding of provenance, the 2009 CCI “Caring for Totem Poles” workshop in Alert, Canada, allowed the authors to travel through British Columbia with curatorial consultants, native carvers, and native caretakers, in order to study the techniques of manufacture. It was also important to keep abreast of the expectations of the native communities that might be borne out over the course of any treatment intervention or re-installation campaign.
The original aim of this project was to provide structural stability to those carvings which exhibited highly deteriorated surfaces caused by the weathering and biodeterioration in their original environment. These instabilities were often exacerbated by inappropriate environmental conditions and restoration interventions in the museum. The most significant issue requiring treatment was the presence of wood rot, insects, and biological growth, present in the original environment and continuing to run their course.
Although climate control was installed in 1995, soot from the age of coal heaters and lamps still blanketed the inaccessible areas of the objects. Dust from visitor traffic also dulled them, as the hall is adjacent to the entrance to the IMAX theatre. Routine and well-intentioned cleaning was ineffective against a century of accumulated grime and dust and was causing surface loss.
The location of the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians in relation to the IMAX theatre
The location of the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians in relation to the IMAX theatre

As there is no barrier between the objects and the visitor, touching has caused burnishing and scratching. The unfinished wood readily absorbs skin oils; and graffiti and adhered chewing gum had also become a most-unfortunate problem.
Early interventions after acquisition had caused condition problems of their own, as old fills had a hardness or density that is inappropriate for soft, weathered wood. These fill materials were only becoming more ugly, unstable, crumbly, and cracked with age.
All of these factors, taken together, provided a huge impetus for treatment.
To begin the treatment-planning stage, the conservators at AMNH performed examinations under visible and UV radiation and mapped the observed conditions and materials using a streamlined iPad-based documentation protocol. In some cases the restoration materials observed provided evidence of institutional and condition history. Although there were almost no previous treatment records of these objects, comparison with archival photographs of many of the objects showed the rate of deterioration since acquisition and provided clues as to dates of interventions and installation history.
In summary of the object-treatment stage, vacuums and sponges were first used in an attempt to reduce some of the dinginess of the surface and to increase the legibility of the painted designs. The many resinous and waxy coatings had trapped so much dust, however, that this treatment did not always have a satisfactory result.
The question of solvent toxicity held sway in all aspects of treatment, as operations were completed in makeshift spaces outside of the lab, due to the size of the objects; these areas had no fume-extraction infrastructure. Luckily, plaster fills could be softened with a warm-water-and-ethanol mixture and carved out.
Temporary conservation lab set-up in the gallery.
Temporary conservation lab set-up in the gallery (See treatment photo gallery here).

Butvar B-98 and Paraloid B-72 were selected as potential consolidants and adhesives. A 5-10% Butvar B-98 solution in ethanol (i.e. without the toluene component for safety concerns) was used for surface stabilization, and Paraloid B-72 in acetone was used for adhesion of splinters and detached fragments.
Karl Knauer filling splinter edges.
Karl Knauer filling splinter edges.

Fills were designed using different materials depending on the location on the object. These were intended to reduce damage during installation, display, and regular maintenance. If the fill was not visible, shapes were cut from Volara, beveled, and adhered in place with Paraloid B-72 along the edges. These were often necessary on the tops of the poles to cover the deep voids of deteriorated wood. Some losses were back-filled with tinted glass micro-balloon mixtures of different grades and different resin-to-balloon ratios where appropriate. As some paints were solvent-sensitive, certain fills required the use of Paraloid B-67. The final fill type was a removable epoxy-bulked fill to compensate for deep losses in visible areas. These areas were first filled with polyethylene foam to prevent the fill from locking in. The edges of the fill area to be cast were protected by tamping down teflon (plumber’s) tape which conforms nicely to the wooden surface. West System 105 Epoxy Resin—with “fast” 205, “slow” 206, or “extra-slow” 209 hardeners—was used in different proportions to 3M glass microspheres and pigments to give fill material with various hardness, curing-times, textures, and colors (See Knauer’s upcoming publication in ICOM-CC Warsaw 2013 for more details). This method is notable for its invisibility, its reversibility, and its rejection of phenolic micro-balloons, which are an unstable and unsuitable and were historically used for such a wood fill merely for their brown color. Once cured, the bulked-epoxy (and the plumber’s tape) were removed and the fills were then tacked into place with B-72 to produce an aesthetically pleasing and protective cap.
Many losses which were previously filled were left unfilled, as would have been the case it they had been collected and treated today. Crack fills were incised so as to retain the appearance of a (smaller) crack.
Once the surface and structure was stabilized with the consolidation and filling operations, the team turned their attention to the various paint films to be cleaned. Many of these were proteinaceous but some were more similar to house paints. This data was consistent with the ethnographic findings and with current native practice. No preparatory layers were used, and the pigment layers were often very lean.
PLM, XRF, and SEM-EDS, as well as UV-FL imaging, thin sections, and analysis with FTIR was undertaken. Some binder analysis was also possible, but this was complicated by historical treatments. Interpretation of epi-fluorescence microscopy results was also thwarted by the presence of multiple coatings, the inter-penetration, -dissolution, and bleed-through of layers. As many as four different types of coatings were identified, and understanding and addressing the condition issues caused by these coatings became a primary concern. Cellulose Nitrate was often applied to carvings in the early 20th century. Whether this was to refurbish or protect, it has developed into a dark-brown layer which is alternately hazy and glossy and which obscured the original surface appearance. Lower regions evidenced PVA or PVAc on top of the Cellulose Nitrate. Shellac and dammar are present in isolated locations, as is an orange resin which eluded identification (even when analyzed with GCMS).
Although identification of these coatings was attempted, removal was not originally planned due to the difficulties designing a solvent system for its reduction, considering the variation in sensitivities, the interpenetration of the layers, and the unknown condition of the original paint films beneath. This plan changed when the poles were deinstalled for construction.
The treatment design was largely aided by the isolation of four house posts in the collection made by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Arthur Shaughnessy.
Arthur Shaughnessy carving one of these poles (Photograph by George Hunt, copyright AMNH).
Arthur Shaughnessy carving one of these poles (Photograph by George Hunt, copyright AMNH).

Commissioned by AMNH in 1923, these had never been installed outdoors but which had been coated in the same manner and exhibited in the same space. This allowed for the development of controlled methods for coating reduction.
A Teas table (or Teas chart) was used to identify potential solvents or solvent mixtures, which were tested over every color and monitored for any leaching or swelling. These initial tests were deemed unsuccessful.
In areas without paint, film reformation with acetone reduced haziness or glossiness. Where the coating was completely removed, the wood was often left with an over-cleaned appearance which necessitated some coating redistribution with MBK, MEK, and propylene glycol. Wherever possible, gels were used to reduce the exposure to toxic solvents. In painted areas, the large variation in solvent sensitivity, the inconsistency of media binders, the varying porosity of the wood, and the changing direction of the wood grain required that the conservators work inch-by-inch. DMSO, a component of “safe” stripper, and NMP were controllable over certain colors but caused considerable swelling.
February 2012, the museum saw the reinstallation of the Shaughnessy poles, marking the effective conclusion of the testing period and the successful management of a challenging triage situation by conservation staff.

It was Kwakwaka‘wakw artists like Arthur Shaughnessy who kept carving traditions active when the Canadian government prohibited the potlatch ceremony in 1885. The ban was lifted in 1951, after AMNH’s acquisition of the house posts.
The completion of treatment represents an important opportunity to educate the public: Although these monumental carvings are exhibited in a historic wing of the museum, we need to dust them off and remember that these carvings represent very, active traditional practices and communities.
There is still the need to develop more systematic solvent strategies, as well as to consult with a paintings conservator. But it is clear that these objects stand to look much improved after the grime and coatings are removed or reduced and the objects are thoughtfully reintegrated with a well-designed fill system. Thanks to the remarkable talents of the AMNH team, these stately creations are finally commanding the respect they deserve.
Hall of Northwest Coast Indians :: AMNH
From the Bench: These Face Lifts Require Heavy Lifting :: IMLS
Arthur Shaughnessy house post carvings reinstalled following conservation treatment (February 2012) :: AMNH
Changing Approaches to the Conservation of Northwest Coast Totem Poles :: Reed College
Andrew Todd (1998). “Painted Memory, Painted Totems,” In Dorge, Valerie and F. Carey Howlett (eds.), Painted Wood: History and Conservation (pp. 400-411). Proceedings of a symposium organized by the Wooden Artifacts Group of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works and the Foundation of the AIC, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1994. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Trust.
A Brief History of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition :: AMNH


42nd Annual Meeting – Conservators in Private Practice, May 28, "Greening your Conservation Practice."

Believing heat wheels work is like believing you can section off a part of a hot tub for peeing.

Headline speaker Monona Rossol began this year’s CIPP workshop with her characteristic flair when referring to the use of the heat exchange system with contaminated air streams. The system is often recommended to score points for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification and served as an example of how greener practices may not necessarily be safer practices.  An Industrial Hygienist and health and safety champion for the arts community, Monona is the founder of Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety (ACTS). If you don’t leave one of her lectures concerned about everything you have ever come in contact with, you should at the very least have a better idea of how to navigate your way through the jargon of government, industry and product health and safety information.
The beginning of Monona’s talk introduced the pitfalls of blindly accepting the safety information provided by government regulatory organizations and manufacturers. In her explanation of many of the acronyms associated with chemical classifications and exposure assessments, Monona emphasized that it’s what we don’t know about chemicals that is the most concerning. For example, phrases such as “not listed as a carcinogen” and “generally recognized as safe” do not indicate that the chemical is not toxic, but may mean that it has never been tested. She also reviewed the improved chemical labeling and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), as outlined by the new OSHA Hazard Communication Standard. Even though SDSs are better than their predecessors, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs), they still are limited by lack of information. Finally, she discussed commercially manipulated and undefined “green” phrases like all natural–just because something comes from nature does not make it is safe–and biodegradable– chemicals can breakdown into compounds that can be more toxic than what you started with.
So what can we do as conservators and consumers to protect ourselves, the others we work with and the environment?

  • Become a conscientious and informed user; understand and learn about the products in your studio as well as the language and limitations of hazard communication (such as manufacturer provided SDSs) and local and federal regulations.
  • Purchase products from companies that disclose the full ingredient lists and avoid products that have proprietary formulations.
  • Support laws such as California’s PROP 65, which requires the state to publish a list of toxic chemicals. Businesses must notify Californians about significant amounts of chemicals in their products or that are released into the environment. By allowing anyone “acting in the public interest” to enforce the law, it takes the responsibility for policing manufacturers and their harmful materials out of the hands of legislators and bureaucrats and into the hands of the people who are being affected by toxic chemicals (you!).

In the second half of her presentation, Monona discussed air quality and fume and particle extraction. She first reviewed the definitions of gases, vapors, fumes, dusts, mists, nano-particles and smokes; their associated health hazards; and types of filters that can be used. In her discussion of fume extraction, she cautioned that window fans and air conditioners are not proper ventilation and of the limited efficacy of portable, filter-based fume extractors. Her main point was that proper extraction involves a displacement system that exhausts to the exterior in concert with bringing in uncontaminated air from a source on a wall across from the exhaust (not from an adjacent wall or window). A clear path of air flow should put the conservator’s head directly in the stream. Filter-based extractors can be selective to the vapors and/or particles sizes they collect; only clear the immediate work area; do not provide clean replacement air; and have no indication of when the filter is no longer functioning properly. She stressed that when you are designing your ventilation system, you should consult a specialist with an industrial ventilation background. While there were too many points to discuss in a few hour workshop and certainly too many to adequately cover in a blog, Monona is always willing to respond to anyone’s concerns or review your studio set-up.

The remainder of the session focused on greener business practices. Chair of the Committee on Sustainability, Betsy Haude, outlined the committee’s activities over the past year, including several AIC News articles and making their wiki into an informative and useful resource.
Objects Conservator Sarah Nunberg, followed up with an outline of the results of a Life Cycle Assessment to look at the environmental impact of museum practices. Conducted in collaboration with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, students at Northeastern University performed four case studies using a computer program with a series of user defined parameters:  1) halogen vs. LED lighting, 2) solvents used for consolidation of stone, 3) loans and transport, and 4) HVAC systems. They concluded that the LED lighting was more energy efficient. In the second case, silane in ethanol proved to have the greatest negative environmental impact over B72 in xylene and B72 in acetone and ethanol; xylene had a greater impact than acetone/ethanol primarily due to its production. In their loan assessment they compared a loan going to Tampa, Florida and a loan going to Japan. Interestingly, they discovered that accommodating for the courier had the greatest environmental impact. Finally, their study also showed that shutting down HVAC systems every night decreased the energy costs by 40%, but that the overall energy impact also depended on the source. Seeing quantified data on these various museum conditions allows for a discussion on how museums can potentially reduce their environmental impact, while still considering the elements of maintaining and promoting their collections.
The final three San Francisco-based speakers discussed the various programs that are available for greening business in California.  Wendy Yeung of the California Green Development Program presented on how this government program works with local business to implement environmental protocols that are both sustainable and profitable. Anya Deepak, a Commercial Toxics Reduction Associate with the San Francisco Department of the Environment, discussed their program for artists, which is an outreach initiative to raise awareness among Bay Area artists on environmental and health issues associated with their art materials. The program is currently in the first phase of implementation and will eventually address disposal, safety and finding alternatives. Organizers discovered they were able to get remarkable participation and interest from all the studios they contacted by suggesting that the artists could have an effect on the environment by following these practices–a notably more positive response than when they tried to appeal to the artist’s personal health and safety. Finally, Anna Jaeger from Caravan Studios, a division of TechSoup Global, discussed various electronic and tech-based programs for greener business administration. Her examples focused on the idea that it is more effective to change the situation or environment than to change an individual’s behavior. Tips included using smart power strips and multi-function machines; conducting virtual meetings; and purchasing refurbished electronics since the majority of energy use goes into their production.
The seminar concluded with a group discussion of what sustainability means to us and the field of conservation. Can artifact preservation and environmental preservation coexist? How can we make the annual meeting more sustainable? Should ventilation regulations focus on optimal human performance within that space or optimal environmental impact?

42nd Annual Meeting – Health & Safety Group Session, May 31st, "Medical Evaluations for Museum and Collection Care Professionals" by Ruth Norton and David Hinkamp

Ruth Norton and David Hinkamp presented “Medical Evaluations for Museum and Collection Care Professionals” at the first Health and Safety Session at AIC.
Ruth Norton started off by discussing a case study of a natural history collection that had been treated with toxic chemicals such as arsenic to deter infestations.  To determine if there were residual chemicals in storage and the ambient environment, a variety of tests were conducted for compounds such as lead, arsenic, mercury, organochlorine, and organophosphate.  The results of the study concluded that most chemicals were below accepted target levels.
The museum instituted written procedures for working in collection areas and handing arsenic-contaminated objects.  Good hygiene practices and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) were also employed.   Finally, every workroom and storage room was “deep cleaned” annually to mitigate the spread of dust and other airborne contaminants.
Dave Hinkamp, a physician in occupational medicine, followed Ruth’s talk with a discussion on health and safety hazards in collection work, assessing hazards in the workplace, healthcare professionals, information to tell one’s healthcare professional and what steps one can take now.
When approaching health care professionals, tell them about your work duties, materials used (e.g. adhesives, formaldehyde, etc.), and unique aspects of your work.  Concerns that should be discussed include acute episodes such as asthma, personal health issues such as pregnancy, chronic exposure such as long periods of work with possible hazard, and any other health problems.
Two points that really stood out to me:

  1. Identify your work hazards and their effects.
  2. Protect yourself by either eliminating, substituting, controlling, or limiting your exposure to toxic substances.  Employ PPE and don’t eat, drink, or touch your face at your workstation!


42nd Annual Meeting: Health and Safety Session, ‘Solvents, Scents and Sensibility: Swapping – Solvent Substitution Strategies’ by Chris Stavroudis

Part I of ‘Solvents, Scents, and Sensibility: Sequestering and Minimizing’ was presented on Friday and encouraged the use of Pemulen TR – 2 in cleaning as an alternative to solvents or as a vehicle for solvents.
The topic of Part II was substituting safer solvents for more hazardous ones. Chris Stavroudis began the talk with a warning: There is no perfect substitute for Xylenes. He did, however, address some alternatives later in his talk.
Some of the harmful solvents that Chris suggested replacing were:
Benzene (a carcinogen) – can be replaced with xylene or toluene (although these alternatives are also hazardous)
n-Hexane (a neurotoxin) – can be replaced with n-Heptane
DMF – replace with n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP), although this may also be hazardous
Methanol – replace with Ethanol
Cellosolve and Cellosolve Acetate – just don’t use them! May be able to substitute butyl Cellosolve
Chlorinated Solvents – don’t use them. 1,1,1 trichloroethane is the least of the evils, but is terrible for the environment
Xylenes (it is a mixture of isomers and contains varying levels of ethyl benzene) – It may be safer to use xylene (single isomer) but this hasn’t been adequately tested.
Stavroudis stressed the fact that there is a difference between a safe solvent and an untested solvent. The two should not be confused and proper safety precautions must be made. He gave multiple examples of solvents that were once considered to be safe and that we now know can be hazardous (ex: d-limonene).
The use of silicone solvents was encouraged because they are versatile, as they can be cyclic or linear, and have a very low polarity. Silicone solvents may be safer than alternative solvents. They are found in make-up, are practically odorless (although this makes exposure difficult to gauge).
Another safer solvent that Chris mentioned was Benzyl Alcohol which has aromatic and alcoholic functionality, although it is toxic to the eyes.
Chris ended his talk with a review and discussion of solubility theory, including the Hildebrand and Hansen Solubility parameters and the TEAS diagram. This review was focused on the problem of finding a replacement for Xylene, a solvent that would have the same solubility characteristics. Chris’ Modular Cleaning Program is a greener and healthier technique/tool and includes Hildebrand, Hansen, and TEAS solubility theories. Using these theories the solvent mix that most closely matches the solubility characteristics of Xylene is a mixture of nonane and benzyl alcohol. There is more experimentation to be done and the next version of MCP can help you experiment with solvent mixtures and solubilities.

42nd Annual Meeting – Health and Safety Session, May 31, 2014, "Unintended Consequences of Persistant Residual Vapor-Phase Chemicals within Collection Storage" by Catharine Hawks and Kathyrn Makos

This talk, given in Saturday’s Health and Safety session, was a summary of a project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History investigating the vapors that staff were exposed to when opening old storage cabinets.
Chemicals that accumulate from pest management or other treatments can be harmful to people, objects/specimens, and even storage furniture through inhalation, repeated exposure, and adsorbing or absorbing onto their surfaces. Many pesticides are particularly retained in lipids in specimens and in the wood components of storage cabinets – this has the potential to be problematic for those working with collections that were subjected to these types of treatments in the past, particularly natural history collections. The goals of the project were to detect, identify, and quantify concentrations of organic vapors in cabinets that were known to have held treated specimens, thereby being able to determine the level of risk. Entering into the project, mercury vapor was expected. Heavy metals and non-volatile particulates were not investigated, with the idea being that proper use of personal safety tools and regular cleaning with HEPA vacuums will negate their effect on humans.
Vapor data was collected via evacuated canisters using the USEPA TO-15 method, and a mercury vapor analyzer. Cabinets chosen for the survey were presumed to have not been opened recently (and some were known to have been left unopened for many years). Of the cabinets chosen, 55 held mammals, 100 held anthropological specimens, and 50 were empty but had held anthropological specimens in the past.
Contrary to expectations, none of the cabinets were found to have mercury vapor! However, 39 other volatile compounds were found. Thankfully, these compounds were only detected in the ppb levels, and all volatile compounds detected were well below (often 100-1000 times below) workplace exposure limits (TLV).
Data obtained was not significantly different from the empty and the filled cabinets, which suggests that empty cabinets retain some chemicals, even after long periods of time. However, measurements of volatile compounds present in storage outside of the cabinets were not taken.
Though these ranges are safe for humans, they may not be safe for collections stored within the cabinets or for the cabinets themselves. Two chemicals are of particular concern: PDB (1,4-dichlorobenzene) and naphthalene are both highly toxic and will be retained in fats and other proteinaceous materials. They also increase mobility of unsaturated fats and are likely carcinogenic. In addition, PDB may crystallize onto surfaces, leaving a reside that can be quite sticky and difficult to remove.
Due to the results of the survey, the authors have a few key recommendations for collections that may contain such chemicals:

  1. Improve storage: Budget towards accelerated disposal of old cabinets. Do not reuse them, even with non-collection items. Re-house collections in metal cabinets, and segregate treated specimens from the rest of the collection.
  2. Implement an integrated pest management system: This reduces the need for future treatments and can be non-toxic! Heat treatment is not recommended for pesticide-treated specimens.
  3. Implement safe work practices and practice personal safetey measures: Wear gloves, minimize case-browsing, examine objects in a well-ventilated area.
  4. Work towards remediation: place scavengers in cabinets that can’t be evaluated or dealt with now.
  5. Above all, be aware and be safe!